Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis: 5/4/08 - 5/11/08

Saturday, May 10, 2008

FINALLY!!!! At least SOME freakin' justice!!!!

Halliburton Rape Claim Goes to Court
A Houston woman who says she was gang raped by co-workers at a Halliburton/KBR camp in Baghdad won a major court battle late Friday when a Texas judge ordered that she can bring her case to court instead of forcing her into secretive arbitration proceedings with Halliburton and KBR.

"We are ecstatic that [District Judge Keith Ellison] had the courage to uphold justice in this case," Jamie Leigh Jones' attorney Todd Kelly said after the decision.

Jones says that after she was raped by multiple men at a KBR camp in the Green Zone, the company put her under guard in a shipping container with a bed and warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job.
She told her full story in 2005 in an ABC News report.
Every time I hear this story, I get enraged on a number of levels.

First, NO ONE seriously believes this didn't happen. Any program for women veterans, includes focus on "Military Sexual Trauma."
Roughly one-third of female veterans who have sought counseling at the VA report having been the victim of rape or attempted rape during their service.
Senator Lisa Murkowski is even one of seven sponsors for a Health Care Improvement Act for Women Veterans which includes care for victims of "MST":
The health care improvement act would require that the VA implement a program to train educate and certify VA mental health professionals to care for women with MST and post-traumatic stress disorder using evidence-based treatments. It also requires a full-time women veterans program managed at all VA medical centers.
As bad as the treatment is for Women Veterans, contractors are treated like the stuff scraped off the bottom of their boots. This was demonstrated when the Department of Justice refused to send a representative to the Congressional hearings resulting from Ms. Jones' story.

The big paychecks the contractors get seem to be in exchange for the total lack of any basic human rights afforded to them in a foreign country. This is thanks on one hand to the immunity from prosecution contractors have so far enjoyed in Iraq and on the other hand to the movement to make corporations immune from civil liability suits through a little thing called tort reform.
Events in a federal district court in Texas last month should have provoked outrage across the country -- legal, judicial and moral outrage. A young American woman already denied the right to criminal justice in Iraq was insulted for a second time when a judge denied her the right to sue for civil relief in a U.S. court.

What was the reason? There was a binding arbitration clause in her employment contract. The judge said: "Sadly, sexual harassment, up to and including sexual assault, is a reality in today's workplace." He then sent the case to binding arbitration as requested by Halliburton and its former subsidiary, KBR, snuffing out the civil case of their employee, a mother of five who had filed a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment and assault by co-workers while on the job in Iraq.
There's a reason the neo-cons are happy to partner with contractors for many of the Iraq Occupation duties...they have no recourse to abuse. Estimates are that U.S. non-military personnel now outnumber the soldiers.

This is why the decision in this most recent case is such a big deal. Halliburton had to assume the judge would rule the same way in this case - that Jamie Lee Jones would get binding arbitration as well. That's the ONLY explanation for the unreal statement they sent the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:
KBR said that after a medical examination, the woman was "taken to a secure unlisted living container where she could rest." It is hard to imagine any greater trauma to an already traumatized and injured rape victim than terrifying and forcible isolation immediately after the violent event. Adding insult to injury, the rape kit used by a military doctor in examining the victim was reportedly handed over to Halliburton/KBR, and doctor's notes and photos of her bruises are missing.

Legal eagles will be following this case closely while most of the MSM will probably continue to ignore it.

On a "silver lining" note, Jones started the "Jamie Leigh Foundation" which "is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping United States citizens and legal residents who are victims of crime while working abroad for government contractors and subcontractors. We demand government contract corporations and government entities to act responsibly, and be held accountable to provide a work environment free of sexual harassment, and limit the potential for abuse."

I fervently hope that she succeeds.

Million-dollar "Anchorage Market & Festival" STILL not paying musicians - editorial by Patti Greene (followed by Diva commentary)

"Gear Junkies" is the free, premier weekly newsletter sent via email to the Alaska music community. In each issue, the Goddess of the Anchorage Music Scene, Patti Greene, writes an editorial on "music politics" and we post it here!

I'm a day late on this one - she sent it out yesterday.

It's That Time Again: Let's beat this dead horse again, shall we?

The Anchorage Market is featured on the cover of this morning's Anchorage Daily News' Play section, and in the featured article, ADN restaurant reviewer Spencer Shroyer
sshroyer@adn.com writes,

"... the market also has a roster of performing entertainers. Although I've heard some jams and seen a funny break-dancing team or two, the sound of a woman singing 'Mr. Roboto' karaoke-style on a headset mic still haunts me. Ditto for that Nickelback-covering band."
While my first impulse is to ask why a food critic is writing about entertainment, the larger and more obvious point is that the Market gets what it pays for.

Which, for those of you just joining the discussion, is zip-nada.

The Market has enough money to pay for the production/distribution of a 24-page insert in the Daily News [also in today's paper] but they can't budget a dime for local players??

Let's not belabor this point any further. Do not play the Market until you are paid for your time and talents. If you need to get your music ya-yas out, get thee to a jam night or learn how to book your band for folding money. (Don't know how? Ask me.) Do not play for free, Gear Heads, unless it's for a cause that you wholeheartedly support. We may be the poorest of the starving artists but what we are not is a non-profit organization.

Happy Mothers Day to my mama, to sista Mary, to Miz Dee and Miz Linda and Miz Sandy and you, too, J.C., and all you splendid human beings who have taken the time to raise the worlds' young'uns with tender, loving care -- and often without help. --- patti

If you are interested in recieving a weekly "Gear Junkies" of your very own, contact Patti at sparkle@alaska.net

From Celtic: I am a local-grown-food-freak and make it a point in the summer time to hit the Farmer's Markets.

NOT the "Anchorage Downtown Market & Festival".

I was just at the "Anchorage Farmer's Market" at 15th and Cordova today and bought some oysters for $12.00/doz just off the truck from Homer. Soon, the Farmer's Markets will be full of everything from veggies to seafood to fresh fruit to jams and jellies to honey, etc...Here's the listing of Alaska's 2008 Farmer's Markets across the state (note that the big advertiser is the top one - skip on down).

We can support local agriculture and REFUSE TO SUPPORT those who don't respect other hard-working Alaskan professionals.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Alaska Superdelegate *UPDATE*

***UPDATE to my post from yesterday:***

Alaska Politics Blog did a post on the Alaska Superdelegate question:
Alaska's four superdelegates are still evenly split - one each for Obama and Clinton and two who haven't committed to either.

"This probably the most monumental decision I have made in my life," said Cindy Spanyers, an uncommitted superdelegate from Juneau. "The overwhelming importance of it is weighing on me and causing me to reflect and think about my values, Alaskan Democrats, the future."

Blake Johnson, the other uncommitted Alaskan, seems to be enjoying the attention.

"Basically we're getting an opportunity to talk to people we never would if we had committed," said Johnson, who lives in Kenai.

He said he was recently on a teleconference with Hillary Clinton, for example. Johnson said he takes the opportunity to push Alaska issues and lobby to have the candidates spend some time here.

Uhhh...Blake...it's not supposed to be about you and the famous/powerful people YOU get to meet. If you want to do the state some good, why not "spend some time" with the man who is actually going to be the nominee? Why not announce for Obama when every Superdelegate who does so is making headlines instead of waiting until the end when no one will care?

Alaska Democratic voters, of course, were a lot more pro-Obama than the state's superdelegates. Obama got 75 percent of the Democratic vote in Alaska's February caucuses.

I find it interesting that Kyle Hopkins chose to end the post this way...making it clear that the Superdelegates aren't as "pro-Obama" as their Alaskan Constituents.

It makes their "waiting" posture even more quetionable. Are they thinking about helping Hillary Clinton overturn the clear winner?

This all reeks of "politics as usual" and is one more example of why the Superdelegate system needs to go.

If you want to contact these Superdelegates and let them know how you feel--with respect and manners, please--here are the emails:

Blake Johnson -

Cindy Spanyers -

I'm also including the Democratic Chair who has declared for Clinton:
Patti Higgins -

Anchorage First Lady Deborah Bonito honored for her work with military families

Anchorage First Lady Deborah Bonito, wife of U.S. Senate candidate and Mayor Mark Begich, was recognized in Washington, D.C. today for her work with military families in Alaska. The Anchorage First Lady Military & Family Support Initiative received the Raytheon Program Achievement Award for “Best Use of Volunteers.”

The award was one of just three given nationally by the Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) recognizing outstanding programs that benefit young enlisted men and women and military families. It comes with a $4,500 grant to the Alaska chapter of the ASYMCA.

“I am proud to see Deborah’s work recognized on the national level,” Begich said. “As military families deal with multiple tours of duty, single-parent households, and other issues, we’ll continue to support them and look for ways to make their lives a little easier.”
Mayor Begich has taken Deborah's idea to the United States Conference of Mayors through his ground-breaking "Community/Military Relations Task Force." The hope is for other U.S. Mayors to spread this program in cities around the country, helping countless military men, women and their families through difficult times.

(Photo courtesy of the Municipality of Anchorage)

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

OK - since I live in Alaska I must mention it...

...even though all the MSM outlets and some of the blogs have analyzed every minute of the sentencing hearing...

Vic Kohring Sentenced to 3 1/2 Years (per the ADN)
A federal judge sentenced former Wasilla state Rep. Vic Kohring to 3½years in prison Thursday for taking bribes in a scheme to keep Alaska oil taxes down.

"Unfortunately, in the end, he sold out the trust which he had worked so hard to earn," U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick said in pronouncing the sentence.

Kohring maintains he didn't break any laws and will fight through appeals.

"My conscience is clear. I did nothing criminal. I was a little naïve, I will admit to that," Kohring told the judge.

Kohring's suit was rumpled and he said he had to hitchhike to court from the Valley after his borrowed truck broke down on the highway. It appeared that he hadn't cut his hair since his trial last fall.

Yeah...that hair...look at it...that was the biggest story of the day! Most of the reams of comments on the blogs I read are about the hair.

My favorite comment is from Valley Trash:
You decide

Is he Davy Jones from the Monkeys

Or a 60's version of Paul MacCartny

Weird flamer artist Andy Warhol

Someone already threw the Austin Powers out there.

None the less I feel bad for the poor bastard, with hair like that 3 1/2 years is going to seem like a lifetime.

Alaska Superdelegates Blake Johnson and Cindy Spanyers, NOW IS THE TIME.

Today, Hillary Clinton proved yet again that she is hell-bent on destroying the Democratic Party to further her own delusions.
In what appear to be the New York senator's most blunt comments to date regarding a racial division in the Democratic presidential race, Hillary Clinton suggested Wednesday that "White Americans" are increasingly turning away from Barack Obama’s candidacy.

"I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on," Clinton said in an interview with USA TODAY.

Clinton cited an Associated Press poll "that found how Senator Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."

"There's a pattern emerging here," she said.
The last numbers from Indiana and North Carolina completely refute her claims as Obama's support among whites and poorer Americans has INCREASED. However, she has become totally irrational at this point so why bother with facts?

And that brings me back to Alaska's undeclared Superdelegates, Blake Johnson (Democratic Party Vice Chair) and Cindy Spanyers (National Committee Woman).

Alaska's Democratic Caucus in February saw Obama get 75% of the vote while only 25% chose Clinton. As of now, we have two declared Superdelegates: Patti Higgins (Democratic Party Chair) who is supporting Clinton and John Davies (National Committee Man) supporting Obama.

Going by the percentages, for the Superdelegates vote to be in sync with the rest of Alaskan Democrats, you two would need to declare for Obama. However, it is clear to everyone but Hillary Clinton that Obama has already won. It is also clear that she has no intention of backing down yet. And now, she has proven that she is unable to remain in the race without damaging the soon-to-be-nominee in the bigger race against John McCain or further dividing and alienating party members.

Not only that, this is taking a toll on other state races:
We had a good 1st Quarter anyway, but I don't think we can continue to reach our fundraising targets unless this thing gets settled, and quickly. For her to wait until June is a nightmare that may well guarantee that not only my guy, but dozens and dozens of other challengers will come up badly short of their goals for the 2nd Quarter. And my candidate is in the very top level of targeted races. I can only imagine what the lower tiers of challengers are facing (well, no, actually I've heard from some of them, including the finance chair for a candidate in the Midwest to whom I spoke today).

We need her to drop out now, not only for the sake of our real Presidential nominee winning in November, but so that the rest of us can finally have a fighting chance with donors.
It is time for you as our remaining Alaska Superdelegates to help Barack Obama end this.

I understand, as I've heard Patti Higgins say on KUDO, that holding back an endorsement until the Convention can lead to some type of negotiation which might work in Alaska's favor. However, right now we are talking about the good of the Democratic Party and the good of the country. If John McCain gets elected as a result of this damage, then any negotiation is out the window anyway.

Alaskan Democrats as well as Democrats across the country ask you to come forward now for Obama.

If you want to contact these Superdelegates and let them know how you feel--with much respect and ALL of your manners, please--here are the emails:

Blake Johnson -

Cindy Spanyers - menno@ptialaska.net

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

We in Anchorage, Mat Su and the Peninsula have lost our whining rights

Ishmael at Kodiak Konfidential has a scary post up that should concern ALL Alaskans. Check out THEIR gas prices (emphasis mine):
There are persistent rumors that the price of gas will be going up tomorrow.

And as bad as the next hike will be here in the banana belt, I understand that it will jump $3 per gallon in Bethel as soon as the first fuel barge of the season arrives. Residents there have been paying nearly $5/gal. all winter, but will be looking at nearly $8/gal. in a month.

Meanwhile, Governess Sarah Palin will make some sort of announcement in the next week about what she and her energy czar Steve Haagenson have up their sleeves to address the energy crisis here in the short term.
I believe that folks should get on the phone to the Governor and their Legislators about this. NO ONE in Bethel, Alaska makes so much money that $8.00/gal gas won't put them in a serious bind.

I was glad that I read the KK's blog post before I read an interesting Compass piece posted in the "Opinions" section of the ADN:

All Alaskans deserve relief from sting of energy prices

(I'll spare you the unnecessary drama of the first paragraph)
Alaskans are paying the highest energy costs in the U.S. while supplying 16 percent of the nation's oil. No Alaskan should pay more for energy than an average resident of Seattle, Portland, Ore., or San Francisco. Interior energy costs are higher because it's colder and transportation costs are higher.

I don't know about electricity, but we're not paying much more in gas prices.

I use a website that updates their gas prices daily. Currently, San Francisco is paying about $0.015 higher gas prices than Alaska (and it looks like everything in Alaska is averaged, including Bethel.) SF is paying about $0.20 more than Anchorage. Portland is only paying about $0.12 less than Anchorage and Seattle is paying about $0.01 less. Whoopee...

But like I said, I don't have the figures regarding the electricity comparisons.

Here is the section from the Compass article that bothered me:
We should equalize our energy costs to the West Coast average. Think of the impact on families, businesses and jobs in Alaska. Our petrodollars, such a cash cow to the state, could provide a substantial and regionally fair return that maximizes the benefits for all Alaskans. Instead of fighting over regional scraps, if we lower the overhead of each business, we become fully competitive with Outside companies and create Alaska jobs.

Let's petition the Legislature and governor to treat all regions of the state equally in energy matters. Ask your friends and neighbors -- in fact, all who pay an energy bill -- to sign.

First off, they haven't given us any "West Coast average" numbers.

Secondly, they talk about "lowering the overhead of each business" then they talk about "treating all regions of the state equally in energy matters." What do they mean by that? After hearing about Bethel's plight, my idea of "treating us all equally" is to lower their fuel prices down to Anchorage rates. I'd like to do that all across Rural Alaska. As much as I may feel I'm suffering paying $4.30/gal for my diesel, I can't imagine paying $8.00/gal for gas or heating oil.

Of course, then I noticed that one of the writers is Jim Crawford, real estate developer and commercial mortgage banker. I wonder how much that "energy savings" would get passed down to renters?

This Anchorage resident doesn't have a problem with Rural Alaska getting the energy relief. They need it, they deserve it and it shouldn't be hijacked.

Why no speculation that Hillary's "Obliterate Iran" comment eroded her support?

EVERYONE last night - every pundit, journalist, campaign supporter, etc...went on and on about how well Obama weathered the big, scary Rev. Wright issue. It was a question in the exit polls; it was continuously beat into the ground.

Heck, the only one on MSNBC who even mentioned Iraq was the dreaded Chris Matthews (known as "Tweety" in some Progressive circles). He actually stunned me by saying he felt that Hillary's vote on Iraq essentially sabotaged her campaign because it kept her from being the "change" candidate. She would always have that hanging over her head.

It was actually an excellent observation, but everyone ignored it.

Then, the MSNBC exit poll girl, Norah O'Donnell talked about how she couldn't understand what eroded Hillary's support among some blue collar voters and especially the Catholic voters. There was an over 10% dip in Catholic support.

I have a one-word explanation that no one seemed able to utter last night - Iran.

Didn't ANYONE think that Hillary's crazy warmonger talk about Iran could have been what eroded her support among blue-collar workers and Catholics...especially Catholics, who by-and-large are anti-war?

Maybe it's because Clinton's initial comments occurred immediately before the Pennsylvania Primary and perhaps folks thought that if they were an issue, we would have seen it reflected there.

However, her very first comments talking about retaliation against Iran happened during the last debate with Obama on April 17th...and went virtually unnoticed in the media. The next, more threatening comments occurred the day before the Pennsylvania Primary, April 21st. The first comments were on "Good Morning America" (where the "Obliterate 'em" remark came from) and then later that evening in an interview on "Countdown with Keith Olbermann."
It didn't become a story until April 22nd, while the people of Pennsylvania were already voting. Most people in the U.S. seemed to treat it like election rhetoric.

However, the national and international repercussions weren't seen for a few days.

When the New York Times (a paper which had initially endorsed her) came out with an editorial blasting Clinton's campaign strategy (April 23rd), their condemnation of her Iran comments weren't mentioned by the rest of the media. Other news outlets didn't say much about the Boston Globe's editorial, titled "Hillary Strangelove," (April 27th) which acknowledged the "muted" national media coverage of the remarks, but also noted the strong reverberations around the globe.

For example:

- Bulgaria, April 23rd

- New Zealand, April 23rd

- UK, April 23rd

- Oman, April 23rd

- India, April 23rd

- Saudi, April 24th

Then on May 2nd, Iran filed a formal protest with the United Nations over Sen. Clinton's comments:
Iran’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Mehdi Danesh-Yazdi, sent a letter of protest on Wednesday to the United Nations secretary general and the United Nations Security Council denouncing the remarks, according to IRNA.
His statement addressing her comments:
Mr. Danesh-Yazdi wrote in the letter that Mrs. Clinton’s comments were “provocative, unwarranted and irresponsible” and “a flagrant violation” of the United Nations charter, IRNA reported.

“I wish to reiterate my government’s position that the Islamic Republic of Iran has no intention to attack any other nation,” the letter said.

Nonetheless “Iran would not hesitate to act in self-defense to respond to any attack against the Iranian nation and to take appropriate defensive measures to protect itself,” the letter added.
That got some attention.

As a result, Clinton and her surrogates were asked about Iran in the interviews leading up to Indiana and North Carolina.

Then, Obama said something on May 4th that I've been waiting for:
On Meet the Press, Obama was asked to respond to Hillary's recent tough talk towards Iran -- her claim that if Iran considered attacking Israel, "we would be able to totally obliterate them."

"It's not the language we need right now," Obama replied. "I think it's language that's reflective of George Bush."

Obama added that under Bush we have had a foreign policy of "bluster and saber rattling and tough talk" that Hillary's language echoed.

Asked by Russert how he would respond to Iran, Obama said: "Israel is an ally of ours," adding that "there's no doubt that we [would] act forcefully against Iran."

But he returned to his earlier point: "It is important that we use language that sends a signal to the world community that we're shifting [away] from cowboy diplomacy."

It was brilliantly timed and brilliantly said.

So, by the Indiana and North Carolina primaries, the good people of those states had more exposure to Clinton's statements, their repercussions and Obama's characterizations.

Somehow, NO ONE thought that a question about it was relevant for the exit polls. The media all seemed baffled by her slip in support among blue-collar workers and Catholics and couldn't come up with a good explanation.

That's because they were too busy asking all of the wrong questions.

The Catholic Church has a strong anti-war tradition; when I was a kid in Catholic School, some of the priests and nuns that taught me would occasionally have substitutes when they were protesting the Vietnam War. As far as the blue-collar voters go, most of them probably know someone or have a loved one serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. The idea of adding Iran to the mix cannot be attractive to them.

It's been pointed out by many individuals and organizations that for some reason, the MSM has an aversion to covering Iraq and Afghanistan. It seems that aversion also extends to Iran warmongering. It's disturbing.

Jake Metcalfe a Candidate No More?

According to "An Alaskan Abroad" and backed up, sorta, by Progressive Alaska Jake Metcalfe has a 1:00 PM press conference scheduled where it is believed he will announce that he is leaving the race.

If it is the case, I'm surprised it took him this long.

If not, he might as well. His viability as a candidate is now nil, zero, zip, nada...

So either Ethan Berkowitz or Diane Benson will face either Don Young or Sean Parnell.


Yup, they were right:
Democrat Jake Metcalfe just quit the race for Don Young's Congressional seat.

He said the flap over anti-Ethan Berkowitz web sites was too much of a distraction.

"I want to clarify, once and for all, I did not order or ask anyone to buy the sites. I did not know until recently that anyone associated with my campaign had done so. It appears that a former campaign worker was involved in these acts, and I condemn them," Metcalfe said.

Metcalfe said his former political advisor, Bill Scannell, still denies being behind the sites. But Metcalfe said the evidence points toward Scannell's involvement.

Metcalfe said he called Berkowitz to apologize.

The focus needs to be on a Democrat beating Republican Don Young in November, Metcalfe said, although he didn't endorse a candidate.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Obama dominates in North Carolina by 15 points, Clinton barely squeaks by in Indiana by 1 and 1/2 points.

Tim Russert: "It's over for Hillary. She just lost the nomination."

Joe Scarborough: "It's over."

Clinton's gains in PA were wiped out handily.

Is President Bush purposely goading Myanmar into rejecting our aid?

I mention in my previous post that the First Lady's severe condemnation of the Myanmar government mixed in with the offer for aid yesterday surely seemed bent on forcing Myanmar to reject it.

Now, I'm a believer - I think that Bush really wants Myanmar/Burma to reject U.S. help. Here's Bush giving the #1 enemy of the present Myanmar government a "Congressional Gold Medal." The timing is "coincidental" of course:

President George W. Bush signs H.R. 4286, Congressional Gold Medal: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, during a ceremony Tuesday, May 6, 2008, in the Oval Office. The bill awards a congressional gold medal to the Nobel Laureate for her courageous and unwavering commitment to peace, nonviolence, human rights and democracy in Burma.

Today's "Guardian Unlimited" features an excellent analysis from Brigit Welsh, "assistant professor in the Southeast Asia Studies Program at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington":
The international community has yet to fully accept the hand that has been extended. It is also locked in political games. Governments with entrenched political positions remain focused on elite politics. Yesterday's statement by Laura Bush is illustrative. Rather than wait to be asked in, the US administration browbeat the Burmese government for not accepting their small disaster relief team. The first lady made the offer, while simultaneously criticising the junta, essentially narrowing the space for genuine humanitarian aid to reach those in suffering. The Bush style of telling rather than asking is illustrative of defeating self-righteousness and misplaced arrogance. While the US was trying to do the right thing, how it has done it so far served to undermine the good intentions. Couching offers of aid with conditions will only alienate the junta further, and turn it further into the hands of Asia's growing superpower, China. Ironically, what the US is offering Burma today is a pittance. The amount of aid - $250,000 - is minuscule compared to the disaster. Sadly, more is spent in one day in Iraq.

Today Bush increased the offer by $3 million. Then, of course, he stuck another knife in the side of the offer by awarding the medal and using the opportunity, once again, to condemn the Myanmar government:
This is a fitting tribute to a courageous woman who speaks for freedom for all the people of Burma, and who speaks in such a way that she's a powerful voice in contrast to the junta that currently rules the country.

Bush's wears his motivations on his sleeve like other people wear their emotions. The government rejecting U.S. aid makes Bush look like the good guy to many Americans and (he hopes) to the Myanmar/Burmese people. Rejecting U.S. and other aid would mean untold suffering for the people of Myanmar/Burma whose past protests were ruthlessly crushed by the junta. In the neo-con mind, such added suffering could mean further destabalization and increased hostility to the junta government...and an opportunity.

In other words, the Bush Administration is willing to allow people to suffer and die so that he can get his way.

Gee...that's so unlike him...

Devastating Cyclone hits Myanmar - death toll hits 22,000...and the First Lady shows the infamous "Bush Wife" sensitivity

The number of missing has climbed to over 40,000:
Hundreds of thousands of people are homeless and without clean water or food. The official death toll has increased throughout the day. Burmese state radio reported that 22,464 people had been confirmed dead.

Kyaw Hsan, the information minister, said the regime was "doing its best" to help those afflicted, but that the authorities were finding the relief effort difficult.

"The task is very wide and extensive and the government needs the cooperation of the people and well-wishers from at home and abroad," he said in a news conference in the rubble-strewn former capital, Rangoon, where food and water are running short.

The secretive government is so overwhelmed, it has actually opened its doors to those who have been trying to get in with aid.
In one town alone, Bogalay in the Irrawaddy delta, the foreign minister, Nyan Win, said 10,000 people had died after it was flattened by the storm surge whipped up by 120mph winds.

A spokeswoman for Save the Children said: "It is becoming more and more clear that this is a very serious disaster. Our colleagues out there are comparing it to the level of devastation we saw from the tsunami [in 2004]."

The dramatically escalating toll of dead and missing four days after Cyclone Nagris slammed into the south and centre of the country reflects the degree of devastation and remoteness of the worst-affected areas along the coast.

The military regime in Burma, known for the brutal repression of its people, has said it would accept international help, and teams of specialists are making their way to the affected areas.
(I encourage you to read the entire article. It does remind me of the 2004 tsunami in the scope of the devastation.)

So in all this tragedy, what does the U.S. offer?

Laura Bush uses this offer of help to condemn the Myanmar military leadership - wouldn't that make them less likely to take it, or is that the idea?

Then at the end, the entire focus turned to the preparations for Jenna's wedding.

Per Huffington Post,
While the reporters and the First Lady bantered back and forth about Jenna's wedding details, MSNBC left up their chyron, saying "First Lady Talks About Deadly Cyclone In Myanmar." They also continued to show images of the devastation in Myanmar while Mrs. Bush offered more information about the wedding, including the "Texas limestone altar" built by her husband.
If you go to the HuffPo site, you can watch First Lady Bush and the giddy White House Press Corps get all mushy when they talk about little Jenna's nuptuals.

258 more days of this crap.

Monday, May 05, 2008

In Search of the Wild Locavore - Eating Locally

Locavore - Oxford Word Of The Year 2007 - coined two years ago by a group of four women in San Francisco who believed that local residents should try to eat only food grown or produced within a 100-mile radius.

I have just recently discovered (thanks to Progressive Alaska) the ADN-affiliated blog "AK Root Cellar". Their latest post announced that Saturday was the first Farmer's Market of the season. I was so happy to find that I now have a place to go for information. In past years, it was difficult to know the correct number or who had the latest-best information on the Farmer's Market. Everyone kept trying to point me to the Saturday Market, which is NOT where I generally go. (They make a ton of money at that Market yet refuse to pay the musicians/performers...but that's another blog post.) I eventually find the right folks and made the Farmer's Market my weekly ritual. Alaska has wonderful vegetables and I look forward to them again.

I also read an excellent article there from April 30th, "Why Can't We Buy Local Meat in the Grocery Store?" It's an excellent post describing a tour of three ranches in the Valley that sell bison, elk, and grass-fed beef. Yet, because the State no longer employs a meat inspector, the only way Alaskans can enjoy that meat is to buy it "on-the-hoof" and get it slaughtered at the only USDA-approved facility (in Palmer). Once that is done, it is illegal to re-sell it.

Back in February, I posted the story about the 143 pounds of recalled beef and the hideous video of the cattle that were unable to stand properly (hint: symptom of Mad Cow) that were still going for slaughter and public consumption IN THE U.S.!!!

THIS ALONE should enrage people enough to make sure that Alaskans have safe meat and Alaskan ranchers have local places to sell it.

As stated in AK Root Cellar:

If we want access to local meat and can’t afford to buy a whole animal, we need to contact our local representatives. They need to sponsor a bill, on our behalf, requesting a re-opening of the position for state meat inspector housed within the Division of Ag. Re-creating this position would allow the state to re-invest our ranchers and would be supporting the development of our renewable resources.
Locate your Senators and State Representatives and contact them with this information. I'd send the info to the Governor as well. (I plan to, now that she knows me *cheesy grin*) I would think this is an excellent expenditure of any extra oil money Alaska is receiving.


Snowshoe posted a comment on the AK Root Cellar "Local Meat" story after I was already working on this post:

A more logical and economical method of getting a meat inspector onto the ranches around the state would be for the DEC to contract with local large animal veterinarians and pay the local vets to do the on-site inspections. The budget for one inspector, housed in Anchorage or Palmer, would be huge, just because of travel expenses.

The state and USDA/APHIS already contract our local vets to do BSE and CWD testing and the state vet has our local vets doing Johne's Disease testing and herd risk management. I don't think it would be too onerous to get our vets trained to be USDA certified meat inspectors. If someone thinks it would be a conflict of interest to have a vet who has a doctor/client relationship with a stockgrower do the inspections, the regs could stipulate that a vet who doesn't have a relationship with the stockgrower would have to do the inspections.

Anyway, we would *love* to be able to sell our grass fed, natural beef to people by-the-cut or by the freezer pack, and be able to market to local stores and restaurants. Current regs forbid that. Help us change the regs, so you can buy healthy, locally-grown food for your families!

-- from a member of the Fox River Cattlemen's Association
That proposal needs to go to the Governor.


By the way, we do have a fledgling organization starting - the Last Frontier Locavores. I'm including them on my Alaska blog list and they could use lots of support. Perhaps we could get a year-round local grower program happening up here if enough of us support it!

Top Twelve Reasons to Eat Locally:

1) Freshness. Locally-grown organic fruits and vegetables are usually harvested within 24 hours of being purchased by the consumer. Produce from California can't be that fresh.

2) Taste. Produce picked and eaten at the height of freshness tastes better.

3) Nutrition. Nutritional value declines, often dramatically, as time passes after harvest. Because locally-grown produce is freshest, it is more nutritionally complete.

4) Purity. Eighty percent of American adults say they are concerned about the safety of the food they eat. They worry about residues of pesticides and fungicides. These materials are not permitted in an organic production system either before or after harvest.

5) Regional Economic Health. Buying locally grown food keeps money within the community. This contributes to the health of all sectors of the local economy, increasing the local quality of life.

6) Variety. Organic farmers selling locally are not limited to the few varieties that are bred for long distance shipping, high yields, and shelf life. Often they raise and sell wonderful unusual varieties you will never find on supermarket shelves.

7) Soil Stewardship. Soil health is essential for the survival of our species. Conventional farming practices are rapidly depleting topsoil fertility. Creating and sustaining soil fertility is the major objective for organic growers.

8) Energy Conservation. Buying locally grown organic foods decreases dependence on petroleum, a non- renewable energy source. One fifth of all petroleum now used in the United States is used in Agriculture. Organic production systems do not rely upon the input of petroleum derived fertilizers and pesticides and thus save energy at the farm. Buying from local producers conserves additional energy at the distribution level.

9) Environmental Protection. Soil erosion; pesticide contamination of soil, air, and water; nitrate loading of waterways and wells; and elimination of planetary biodiversity are some of the problems associated with today's predominate farming methods. Organic growers use practices that protect soil, air, and water resources; and that promote biodiversity.

10) Cost. Conventional food processes don't reflect the hidden costs of the environmental, health and social consequences of predominate production practices- of, for instance, correcting a water supply polluted by agricultural runoff, or obtaining medical treatment for pesticide induced illness suffered by farmers or consumers. When these and other hidden costs are taken into account, as they should be, locally grown organic foods are seen clearly for the value they are, even if they cost a few pennies more.

11) A Step Toward Regional Food Self Reliance. Dependency on far away food sources leaves a region vulnerable to supply disruptions, and removes any real accountability of producer to consumer. It also tends to promote larger, less diversified farms that hurt both the environment and local economies/communities. Regional food production systems, on the other hand, keep the food supply in the hands of many, providing interesting job and self-employment opportunities, and enabling people to influence how their food is grown.

12) Passing on the Stewardship Ethic. When you buy locally produced organic food you cannot help but raise the consciousness of your friends and family about how food buying decisions can make a difference in your life and the life of your community; and about how this basic act is connected to planetary issues.

Funny Stuff from Monocot

I know Celtic is a Obama fan, but I think anyone will find this funny:



I wish to introduce myself to you. I am SENATOR HILLARY CLINTON, wife to former deposed president BILL CLINTON of the United States, who has been overthrown by tyrant GEORGE BUSH on 21 January 2001 who has ruled America with an iron fist.

Shortly before the present government consolidated power and banished my husband from his rightful Throne, the leaders of my political party entrusted to me the care of the legacy of Democracy and with the sacred charge of inheriting the leadership of the country so that we may once again bring peace to the land.

Violent rebels funded by the current government, and led by notorious BARACK OBAMA are conspiring to maintain the grip of the current government on power for many years to come.


For many years we have faithfully guarded the federal treasury which has annual receipts in the amount of US$2500000000000 but cannot access those funds until we are returned to presidential palace. I need your assistance in regaining access to these accounts and in defeating the rebels who are tools of the current government. We ask for an investment of US$2600 for which we will be most grateful and will repay your debt through increased government services and military glory against many Middle Eastern country.

YOUR INVESTMENT IS VITAL TO OUR SUCCESS. Many of our secret allies are plan to stage victory but are afraid of the rebel forces who have many spies in US cities and universities. But if enough people invest against the rebel forces OUR SECRET ALLIES WILL DECLARE US TO WIN.




Updates from the Convention

DENVER MAYOR UNVEILS DIALOG:CITY: AN EVENT CONVERGING ART, DEMOCRACY AND DIGITAL MEDIA Details of participating artists and exhibitions scheduled for August 21-29 announced at Monday press conference.

Denver, CO - May 5, 2008 - At a news conference today, Mayor Hickenlooper announced Dialog:City, an event converging art, democracy and digital media that will involve 10 site-specific art installations in neighborhoods throughout Denver from Aug. 21-29.
Dialog:City is an official public program of the Denver 2008 Convention Host Committee and is organized by the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs.

"It's no accident that the 'greenest' and most creative Democratic National Convention in history will occur in Denver this August," said Mayor Hickenlooper. "With one of the highest-educated populations in the United States, a technology-driven economy and world-class art institutions, Denver is prime for an event of this scale."

World-renowned artists ranging from a MacArthur Fellow to a leading "green" design faculty member will come together to create a series of innovative commissioned works in conjunction with local organizations and students.

Dialog:City artists are: Charlie Cannon and students from the Rhode Island School of Design (representing numerous states/countries)· Minsuk Cho (South Korea)· R. Luke Dubois (New York)· Ann Hamilton (Ohio)· Sharon Hayes (New York)· Lynn Hershman (California)· Daniel Peltz (Rhode Island)· D.J. Spooky, a.k.a. Paul Miller (New York)· spurse collective (representing numerous states/countries)· Krzysztof Wodiczko (Poland)

Brief descriptions of the artists' projects follow:

Charlie Cannon and students from the Rhode Island School of Design's Innovation Studio will present visual designs in the categories of buildings, food, energy, "greening" cities, water and transportation. Focusing on what actions can be taken now, Partly Sunny: Designs to Change the Forecast includes collaboration with GreenPrint Denver, the Dirt Café Project, Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design and Green Order.

Minsuk Cho's architectural Pavilion for Public Discourse will be installed in City Park. This pneumatic structure will levitate, creating a sculptural canopy. Events, symposiums and parties will assemble at this new model for a public square.

Hindsight is Always 20/20 is R. Luke DuBois' presentation of high-frequency words from presidential State of the Union addresses. The words have been translated into the visual hierarchy of an eye chart and will be presented as light boxes in front of the Denver Performing Arts Complex.

Choirs are the central theme of Ann Hamilton's site-specific performance. She will work with and choreograph her movement with five Denver-based choirs to perform an innovative interpretation of a round format, passing voices to one another. This musical exchange of call and response represents dialogue based on listening.

Sharon Hayes will work with 75 to 100 volunteer performers to simultaneously recite a text that reframes queer identity in public life. Produced in partnership with the nationally celebrated contemporary art agency Creative Time, Hayes' performance responds to the recent expression of queer identity in politics.

Lynn Hershman's DiNA is an artificial being running for president. DiNA is fully interactive; audiences will be able to ask her questions about her issue platform. Artificial Intelligence is better than no Intelligence at all brings cutting-edge technologies and the political race into a convergent and dynamic demonstration at The Lab of Art and Ideas at Belmar.

Daniel Peltz will present his new work, Participatory Democracy and the future of Karaoke, in which Peltz transcribes public addresses by presidential candidates in the 2008 election into a karaoke format to be presented and performed at bars, clubs and restaurants across Denver.

D.J. Spooky, a.k.a. Paul Miller, will perform Terra Nova: The Antarctic Suite at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. In keeping with the Convention's green theme, his work is a multimedia experience that samples from his recordings of the sights and sounds of ice breaking and melting in Antarctica.

The spurse collective will create a series of walking tours in which audiences can listen to sound based upon existing seismic and geographical data sets for Denver specifically where audiences will travel.

Krzysztof Wodiczko's project will use media to empower veterans of recent wars. A collaboration with Denver's Road Home, Wodiczko will develop a project that engages Denver veterans and their experiences to create a public conversation on the trauma of war.

Participation in Dialog:City will be open to all citizens of Denver and to visitors from around the world. While the exhibitions will be concurrent, each will have a dedicated opening enabling the public to attend every event. Dialog:City will be the first program of its kind at a party convention.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Some of the Junk in Hillary's Trunk

So John at Americablog mentioned Hillary's baggage and linked to this cute-and-true video based on the Black-Eyed Peas song:

So I decided to make it a regular feature to present some of the "baggage" that Sen. Clinton claims has been "vetted."

This doesn't mean that I support any of the accusations. My job will be merely to throw it out there to show the kind of things the Right-Wing will present if she were to miraculously become the nominee.

I'll especially focus on the stuff that has been kept relatively quiet, even though it may look like it has the potential to be credible.

I'll start with the case of Peter Paul and his lawsuit against the Clintons, which is presently moving through the California Courts. You can keep up with his take on the progress of the lawsuit as well as his analysis of Hillary's campaign at PETER PAUL'S BLOG.



Bill Moyers - Analysis of the Wright Situation

Diarist westcot on Daily Kos reports on the excellent commentary from "Bill Moyer's Journal" where Moyer's points out (among other things) the racism involved in the Wright/Hagee double standard.
Which means it is all about race, isn't it? Wright's offensive opinions and inflammatory appearances are judged differently. He doesn't fire a shot in anger, put a noose around anyone's neck, call for insurrection, or plant a bomb in a church with children in Sunday school. What he does is to speak his mind in a language and style that unsettles some people, and says some things so outlandish and ill-advised that he finally leaves Obama no choice but to end their friendship. Politics often exposes us to the corroding acid of the politics of personal destruction, but I've never seen anything like this — this wrenching break between pastor and parishioner. Both men no doubt will carry the grief to their graves. All the rest of us should hang our heads in shame for letting it come to this in America, where the gluttony of the non-stop media grinder consumes us all and prevents an honest conversation on race. It is the price we are paying for failing to heed the great historian Jacob Burckhardt, who said "beware the terrible simplifiers".